LONDON—After three hours and 47 minutes, Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic emerged victorious over his opponent, Kevin Anderson, in five sets. The match spanned across two days.
The match started late Monday afternoon on No. 1 Court. Anderson took complete control of the match from the first serve. Djokovic could not establish a rhythm. Frustration showed in his face and movements. Anderson enjoyed his position and kept going as the crowd roared behind him.
Anderson took the first set. Djokovic would surely recover in the second, right? Wrong. The Serb did not make any changes to his game. If anything he looked more out of sync and nothing like the best player in the world. Frantic moves. Jolts. Hiccups. Stupid mistakes. When he broke Anderson, he could not maintain the momentum.
“He was just the better player in both sets,” explained Djokovic. “He took the advantage on the opportunities, shorter balls. I backed up because he was just so aggressive that naturally I was a little bit more passive. But I was hanging in there. I was just trying, even though I was two sets down, to stay calm and mentally strong. I believed I could come back, which I did.”
Two sets down. Djokovic had to do something.
A completely different player emerged from the shadows as Djokovic demolished Anderson 6-1 in only 24 minutes. The regular Djokovic finally showed his face. With two breaks, excellent first serves, and zero unforced errors Djokovic secured the set. That same Djokovic stayed around for the fourth set as well. Anderson defended his serve slightly better, but still lost the set.
Time approached 9:00 p.m. and the sun slowly descended below the horizon. Officials decided to stop the match and continue Tuesday morning. Analysts and experts fought over who the break favored. Djokovic? Anderson? No one really knew.
Wimbledon woke up to gray skies shaking with rain. Of course the clouds opened up right as Djokovic and Anderson took the court. With a smile and laugh, the players huddled inside for about 10 minutes.
So who woke up with more motivation? Both played with their very best, but only one needed to be excellent. Djokovic still showed frustration. But both remained on serve until Djokovic managed to receive that valuable break point when Anderson committed two double faults to push the Serbian up 6-5.
Djokovic served for the match. But two very conservative serves gave Anderson a 30-love lead in the game. With a deep breath Djokovic gave everything he had to finally win the set and advance to the quarterfinals.
“So all in all, until the last moment, until the last point, I didn’t know if I was going to win or not,” he told the press. “I was just trying to be very active and come with the right intensity. That’s all I could influence. That’s all I could focus on. Because he was playing on such a high level, I could just hope that I going to have some opportunities, which I had.”
Next up for him is Marin Čilič, the defending US Open Champion.